Phaer, Thomas

, a Welsh physician and poet, a native of Pembrokeshire, and the first English translator of Virgil, was educated at Oxford, whence he removed to LincolnVinn, to undertake the study of the law. So far was he in earnest, for a time, in this pursuit, that he published two books on subjects of law; one on the nature of writs, and the other, what is now called a book of precedents. Why he quitted law for physic is unknown, but he became a bachelor and a doctor in the latter faculty, both in 1559, and his medical works were collected at London in 1560. They consist chiefly of compilations and translations from the French. Among his poetical works is “The Regimen of Life,” translated from the French, London, 1544, 8vo. The story of “Owen Glendower,” in the “Mirror for Magistrates;” and his translation of the first nine books, and part of the tenth, of Virgil’s uEneid. There is a commendatory poem by him prefixed to Philip Betham’s “Military Precepts.” Warton mentions also an entry in the stationers’ books for printing “serten verses of Cupydo by Mr. Fayre,” and that he had seen a ballad called “Gadshill” by Faire, both which names were probably intended for that of Phaer. His translation of the first seven books of Virgil was printed in 1558, by John Kyngston, and dedicated to queen Mary. The two next books, with part of the tenth, were translated afterwards by him, and published after his death by William Wightman, in 1562. He has curiously enough marked at the end of each book the time when it was finished, and the time which it cost him in translating; which amounts, at separate intervals between the year 1555 and 1560, to 202 days, without reckoning the fragment of the tenth book. It appears, that during the whole of this period he resided very much at his patrimonial territory in Kilgerran forest, in South Wales. The fifth book is said, at the end, to have been finished on the 4th of May, 1557, “post periculum ejns Karmerdini,” which, whether it relates to some particular event in his life, or means that he made a trial upon it at Caermarthen, is a little uncertain; probably the former. Wightman says that he published all he could find among | his papers; but conjectures, nevertheless, that he had proceeded rather further, from the two lines which he translated the very day before his death, and sent to Wightman. They are these,

Stat sua cuique dies, breve et irreparabile tempus

Omnibus est vitae: sed famam extendere factis

Hoc Virtutis opus.

Ech mans day stands prefixt, time short and swift with cure­ less bretche

Is lotted all mankind, but by their deeds their fame to stretche

That privilege Virtue gives.

He died soon after the 12th of August, 1560, on which day his will was dated. His translation of Virgil is written, like the preceding specimen, in long Alexandrines of seven feet. The translation was completed, with the addition of Maphaeus’s thirteenth book, by Thomas Twyne, a young physician, afterwards author of other works: his part is deemed by Warton evidently inferior to that of his predecessor, though Phaer has omitted, misrepresented, and paraphrased, many passages. Of what he did of this nature Phaer himself has given an account, in his postscript to the seven books: “Trusting that you, my right worshipful maisters and studentes of universities, and such as be teachers of children and readers of this auctour in Latin, will not be to muche offended, though every verse answere not to your expectation. For (besides the diversitie between a construction and a translation) you know there be many mistical secretes in this writer, which uttered in English would shewe little pleasour, and in mine opinion are better to be untouched than to diminish the grace of the rest with tediousnes and darknes. I have therefore followed the counsel of Horace, teaching the duety of a good interpretour, * qui quae desperat nitescere posse relinquit;’ by which occasion, somwhat I have in places omitted, somwhat altered, and some things I have expounded, and al to the ease of inferior readers; for you that are learned nede not to be instructed.A ridiculous error of the press stands in the opening of the second Æneid, as reprinted by Twyne, Phaer had translated “conticuere omnes” by “they whusted all,” for “they whisted,” or kept silence but Twyne has printed it “they whistled all.” Sir Thomas Chaloner, in his Encomia, printed at London, 1579, 4to, p. 356, has pathetically lamented Phaer 7 as a most skilful physician. As to his | name, it is written Phayer by Wood, and Phaier by Warton; but as we find it Phaer in every part of the translation of Virgil, and in the “Mirror for Magistrates,” we have so given it. His story of Owen Glendour is in stanzas of seven lines, the same as Sackville’s Induction, and the greater part of those narratives. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. I. —Warton’s Hist, of Poetry. Phillips’s Theatrum, by Sir E Brydges. Cens. Lit. vol. II. Restituta, vol. I. Aikin’s ttiog. Memoirs of Medicine.